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For 5 years in a row now the El Paso Puzzler has had stellar weather.  This year was one of the best.  Not the warmest, but perfect racing weather that didn’t cook those from colder regions or freeze our amigos south of the border.  175 racers lined up for racing with 102 in the 50 mile race.  Only 25 didn’t finish!  That’s a record low number as we usually sit at about a 35% attrition rate.  This year’s event was sponsored by our Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and they stepped up our PR just a little.  They didn’t come on board until December, so we were lucky to get what we got.  Great swag bags for all entrants were filled with goodies from ProGold, Stan’s, lip balm from the CVB, and even cooler, the El Paso Visitor’s Guide spring edition with yours truly on the front cover.  I’m also inside with a full 2 page spread posing with my buddy Brent and Steve Ainsa, a local engineer helping us with our Redd Rd. parking lot.  I actually got a bit of compensation for that with free tickets to the Shrek broadway show at the Plaza Theater as well as a gift card to Cattleman‘s.

Finishers of this year’s Puzzler 50 took home a hoodie for their efforts.  Jen won the women’s race….handily.  She took home $400 cash, a set of Stan’s rims, a can of Okole Stuff and some of the new Lehe Stuff.  I asked her what she would want if she won, and that’s the stuff she wanted.

I did my best to manage Connor while I did some announcing, course management, and meeting/greeting of VIP’s.  He was a champ and really enjoyed a weehoo ride to do some sign checking.  We rode ALL of Lazy Cow back to the venue.  He didn’t like getting swiped by various plants, but hooted a few times when we went through some rolling dips and turns.  Eventually he realized I couldn’t pay much attention to him so he spent a lot of time on his Strider. He didn’t want anything to do with someone who planned to help out with him so I had to just keep an eye on him while he roamed around the venue and sat on the camper stairs giving me the stink eye.

Since the event went so well, we are meeting with the CVB tomorrow to discuss what we can do now for next year.  Some ideas I’m tossing around are:

  • A bounty for a certain time or for an SS to take an overall win
  • A relay (we have 3 laps….one 7, one 27, one 15)
  • A free trip to marathon nationals

Those are just a few.  What do you think would get people to visit sunny El Paso during the winter to do a hard mountain bike race.

Almost half of our competitors were from out of the area this year.

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This weekend is my most difficult weekend of the year.  A huge physical effort is required to set up our venue for the Puzzler and mentally I just get wiped out.  Not being able to race is tough, but it’s worth every bit of effort.  I truly believe the Puzzler is one of the best run mtb events in the country.  It may not have lots of spectator fencing and course marshal on every corner, but the trails are well marked, our volunteers put their efforts where it counts, and we have a great value for the dollar.  I think we’re right up there with Laramie Enduro, but we charge a hell of a lot less.

We got some great coverage this year in our paper.  Here’s the online version.

See you on the trails.

This year’s Puzzler came together really late in regards to sponsorship.  The El Paso Convention and Visitor’s Bureau picked us up just before Christmas.  This has brought about a bit more PR than we normally get.  It will be interesting to see how it affects turn out.  We’ve got some great new trail that we finally buffed out on Sunday.  We were a bit concerned about that as well.  Stan’s and WTB are back on with us….they hoped back on at the last minute as well….last week.

I spent 2 days in a row signing the east side of the mountain.  Signage is stellar!  Daniel Horsch from the CVB joined me for the first couple hours of marking course.  He took some video.  Not all of it is totally accurate.  He says riders from as far away as Utah are coming.  Nobody from Utah has signed up yet, but we’ve got 2 from Wisconsin and 6 from Louisiana who are registered  I think WI is a bit further of a drive than Utah….though I haven’t mapped it.

He also states something about riders taking home $400.  The men’s and women’s 50 mile winners will take home $400 plus some prizes.

Here’s the video.

Our payout is pretty good.  Our trails are awesome!  Our sponsors are on board.  Our cooks are making huge batches of chili.  Now it’s the weather that has me nervous.  This is the first year we’ve even bothered to come up with a back up plan for the weather.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed.  If we get nothing but a bit of rain and snow, we’ll roll on.  A lot of rain and snow and we may still roll but offer a bailout plan for those who don’t want to start.  If the winds are exceptionally high and the snow starts to accumulate, then we may make some course adjustments. We’ll see.  May the stars align for us!

 

I finally got my bar harness mounted up with a new stuff sack and pouch.  Some small adjustments and I’ve got a much better fit.  I feel it’s better to go with a slightly fatter and narrower stuff sack in order to reduce the moment of inertia.  With a longer bag you could really feel the steering’s slowness.  I’m still not completely happy with the pouch, but I’m getting better at sewing up these smaller items and figuring out how size the inner pockets and get everything to fit correctly.

I’m not the biggest fan of the color of the stuff sack, but it’s double ripstop mil-surplus stuff that’s coated and pretty light.  As my fifth or sixth stuff sack I think I finally have the method….especially for the roll top.